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AN EMPRESS

Listening to elderly men talking about other people's problems can be very boring and pointless. That also seems to be the opinion of the feminist movement, which is awfully quiet when it comes to gaining strength in the European Parliament during the crisis.

Caravaque_catherine
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
A young Cathrine Alexeevna

When it comes to the economic developments, do you agree with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus that women are just better when it comes to handling money and power? Then maybe it is time for a strong female leader who knows how to watch out for the continent. After all it wouldn’t be the first time a woman has taken over a giant empire.

Catherine the Great was empress of Russia from 1762 to 1796. Born in Szczecin (then Stettin, in Prussia), she moved to St. Petersburg at the age of 15 to marry the Russian heir apparent, Peter. After a coup d’état she took over his kingdom. In the following years she gained a million square kilometres of territory and restructured the huge empire by introducing a new administration system. Thus, she wasn't only the greatest regent of her time but also one of the most remarkable people in history.

Complying with only six rules, you can follow in her footsteps:

1. Learn a foreign language and marry a prince

Knowing she had to move to Russia Catherine started studying Russian intensively to improve her language skills. Those were crucial when it came to winning mighty allies in her future empire. She needed them desperately as the guy she married was neither interested in her nor in his role as emperor. They were engaged as children and hardly knew each other before the wedding. Still, Catherine looked forward to the marriage and going to Russia, where she quickly gained more and more influence.

Our first tip for you is therefore to learn as many European languages as possible so that you can find your personal prince in Europe. And we are not talking Prince Charming here. Your chosen one doesn't have to be the one after all. As always in life, all that matters is a rich family and a promising future in the family business. We recommend the son of a diplomat or the offspring of an influential industrial dynasty.

2. Get rid of the prince and take over his kingdom

Naturally you won't be able to gain full independence with a man by your side who still thinks he is the king of the world. Facing this problem Catherine saw only one way to overcome the conjugal issues and the power play: she gathered her friends around her and made them conspire against her husband. After his successful removal she declared herself empress of Russia. As she had already gained the support of the Russian people, there were no forces joined against her.

So when planning to take over your husband's heritage you should carefully choose your friends before the grand coup and ensure the loyalty of the people whose boss you are going to become. Then seize the moment and … well, you might not want to kill your husband but what about a little hint for the tax investigator or the revelation of his interest in men?

3. Enlarge the kingdom and make sure people want to live there

Surely you don't want to stick with what your husband and his ancestors created - there is no point in being remembered as "the wife who just took over". Therefore, Catherine's next steps might be of interest for you: firstly she gained a lot of new territory; then she made people want to live there by guaranteeing freedom of religion – an innovation at that time.

The expansion of your personal kingdom might be equally successful to Catherine's if you pursue her career. Now that you are the sole ruler you should reach for the stars – the European ones. Whether you start with some intense lobbying or try to become president of the Commission straight ahead – just make sure you are noticed on the international stage. Also you should prepare some candy for the not so rich and not so famous. Thus they will follow you without questioning your real capacities.

Voltaire
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Voltaire, beneficiary of Catherine.

4. Be in correspondence with multiple fancy philosophers all over Europe

Need some inspiration for your plans? Then once again Catherine's biography might be helpful: she didn't only exchange letters with Montesquieu and Beccaria, but was also a close friend of Voltaire's, whom she granted financial aid. Of course, when she first started studying their work they weren't so famous. Therefore, you don't have to worry if you aren’t up to date with current philosophers. Just look for brilliant minds whose theories approximately meet your opinions and start writing them letters. Believe us: they will answer. They need powerful people who lend them money and spread their ideas to become famous philosophers at all. As for you: you will raise your reputation and get some advice on how to proceed.

5. Ignore most of their advice: just pick what's best for you

To be honest: some philosophers' ideas are just crazy, and more importantly some just don't fit your plans. Catherine knew very well that being a serf wasn't every peasant's dream and that the whole concept didn't really correspond with the ideas of her philosopher friends. However, she needed the nobility on her side as they had helped her with the coup d'état. Having to govern a huge territory the empress had to make some compromises – of which her correspondents didn't exactly approve.

When it comes to your less powerful but highly bohemian friends you therefore should make it clear that your kingdom isn't Alice's Wonderland. They will have to step back if there is a bigger plan. And there will be bigger plans because your business won't increase sales with that new minimum wage concept and your party won't win the elections if their only aim is to introduce highly energy-efficient sailing tankships.

6. Sleep with the elite and make them your followers

Hitting the peak of your career you will need truly loyal friends who support you to stay on top of the world. Also, your huge bedroom might feel a little lonely without anyone to cuddle up with after long working hours. So why not kill two birds with one stone as Catherine did? During her life she had numerous lovers. By not marrying them she kept her independence. Still, she managed to stay friends with most of them after the breakup because she rewarded them with important military positions or lucrative real estate. That way, she was always assured of the allegiance of men who owed her their power.

So our last tip for you is to choose your lovers carefully. As soon as you are sure they will not deceive you, you should give them a position in your network which would normally be way out of their league. They will be grateful for the rest of their lives and you won't have to worry anymore about mean competitors trying to steal your crown. Your empire will be great and long-lasting – and Catherine would really be proud of you.

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